Poor show halted in its tracks, Nationalists have run out of local heros.

Listening to the EU Withdrawal Bill debate in the House of Commons yesterday, Paul Masterton the newly elected Tory MP for East Renfrewshire gave a hint of what Brexit has done for unionists (even Remainers like Masterton).

In leaving the EU, we can deliver hammer blows to nationalism—yes, of the yellow and black variety, but also of a deeper purple variety. Proposals that give succour to nationalists of either hue should not expect to receive my support.

I urge Ministers to recognise the chance before them to deliver for the moderate majority in Scotland, who want to see devolution succeed and the Union protected, with better, stronger, more sustained co-operation between our two Governments, working together, not pulling apart.

On the whole, in Northern Ireland (as in Scotland), Brexit has cheered unionists and dismayed nationalists. In the case of the latter, it has been a case of confounding the unreasonable expectation that change in NI was only ever a one-way street.

At the count last March at the Titanic count centre for the Assembly elections I briefly met Lord Professor Paul Bew on his way out of the building where we briefly discussed the likely effects of Brexit.

His view, IIRC, was that whilst it would create tactical advantages for nationalism in the short term as negotiations proceeded, Brexit would present it with much deeper structural problems in the longer run.

Fionnuala O’Connor sums up (£) the feeling amongst disappointed nationalists:

Northern Catholics, it seems to this writer, are in a stroppy mood. Not desperate, things have been a lot worse, but in the doldrums, more than a bit disgusted. Supposed negotiations have been fronted by a Sinn Féin team that looks only half-awake plus an energetic new Dublin rep who may or may not be engaged with the SFers and of whom few if any northerners have the measure. Uninterest – born of tiredness and trying to earn a living, rear families – tussles with anxiety.

A powerful sense that Stormont doesn’t matter vies with worry. To show themselves pragmatic, non-sectarian, worthy of Dáil respect, will the Shinners sign up to a deal that they cannot hold the DUP to?

Quite. And she goes on…

What many northern Catholics feel – meaning from those nationalist to greater or lesser extent, believers, non-believers, the Sundays and family occasions type – is ‘we wuz robbed.’

With her snap general election, as well as making her own career immeasurably more complicated, Theresa May turned the result of the assembly election upside-down.

That result took from unionists the winning margin they had held since the state’s formation. But after her narrow squeak, May puffed the DUP up again. One minute the party, in the person of Foster, was in the dog house.

Next the same party, in the persons of N Dodds and J Donaldson, knight of the realm, preened outside Number Ten, sat at a ceremonious table and signed off on a sizeable ‘bung’, as disobliging, unimpressed London put it.

It played very badly back home, among the ‘minority’ that makes up almost half the population and that broadly believes the old majority should get used to its real state, with no puffing, no artificial boosting.

It may look majoritarian, but somewhere along the way what some (many in fact) forgot to tell the nationalist people of Northern Ireland is, in fact, under the Belfast Agreement, all rules apply equally across the divide.

It is actually a near perfect fit for Robert Axelrod’s Prisoner’s Dilemma: a game theory scenario in which, two players are locked together in a game where, on each move, they choose either to ‘cooperate’ with each other or to ‘defect’ – a selfish and hostile act.

If one defects and the other cooperates, then the former is highly rewarded and the latter gets nothing (the sucker’s payoff). If both defect, stalemate results and each receives very little (which is better than nothing).

If both cooperate, they each receive a middle reward. But as Axelrod explains:

‘Although there is mutual benefit if you both cooperate as an individual player, it is rational for you to defect if you think the other player will cooperate (you get a high reward) and to defect if you think the other player will defect (you at least get a low reward). That is the dilemma.’

Defection can work well where conditions are transient or short term. But it breaks down if the same two players have to keep playing with each other over and over again. As Unionism and Nationalism are by dint of that ugly scaffolding.

In fact, it’s been a decade of defections, badly managed expectations and big [empty? – Ed] gestures. It’s also been about no shows: Policing and Justice, (promised for delivery in 2008) and Irish Unity, once promised for last year now always being foreseen, just around the bend.

In contrast, unionism has played [had to play? – Ed] a much tighter and more defensive game. Research tells us that unionist votes are much more dependent on the quality of the returns from those who seek government.

As a result of playing a much slower, longer game, they have acquired a broader range of players, trainers, and managers. And as June shows, when pressed back against the wall they can be ruthless and clinical in the counterattack.

The June result was less turning March’s upside down so much as the huge sectarian heave against the outgoing First Minister that delivered it, massively unwinding on the far side.

Given NI’s cramped conditions defection is tempting, but when facing the same opponent time after time again it also costs. If March was the DUP’s sucker’s pay off, June was SF’s. But having forsaken a northern bird in hand the bird in the southern bush is looking remote.

And, caught between one and the other, along comes…

…a new Dublin team, on a Brexit mission. There is more to the psychology of a community than political choices and posturing. Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney are unlikely heroes of northern nationalism but they may be just in time to raise spirits. Northern nationalists have run out of local heroes.

It is a form of madness. But eventually perhaps, old things will pass away; and new things will come.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    spot on, that is exactly what SF is doing

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The Supreme Court analysed this – in an extraordinary sitting of all eleven of the country’s highest tier of judges – and they *unanimously* found Brexit was consistent with the UK’s obligations under the GFA.

  • Georgie Best

    I said that the GFA hadn’t dealt with this question, but that did not remove the need for a similar process of consensus now to deal with it. You pointed out that a learned panel of beaks had found that the GFA did not deal with issue which does not in any way affect the need to deal with it by a consensus process now.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The decision to leave the EU was validly taken at a UK level – that is inescapable, unfortunately. What we need to deal with by consensus now is making sure the interests of people living in N Ireland are as little damaged by it as possible. To that end, don’t we need an executive up and running kind of urgently? One party is holding everyone else up on that.

  • Georgie Best

    The formation of an executive is not needed for talks, there was no executive before the GFA. Decisions cannot be taken at the UK level on matters relating to devolved matters or issues relating to North-South matters, otherwise the entire framework introduced in 1998 has been overthrown.

  • Oggins

    T.E any feedback?

  • Ryan A

    Interesting polling from LucidTalk. Rise in DUP/SF at expense of SDLP/UUP. Alliance between March and June and on course to challenge strongly for third party on those numbers.

  • Stephen Kelly

    I wonder would you ever go away in short jerky movements and get back under your bridge.

  • james

    You don’t really add much to the debate with comments of that sort, Stephen. You aren’t engaging with the topic – merely making snide potshots at those who don’t agree with your narrow worldview and hoping to provoke them.

    As most of your contributions are of this type, frankly, I’m suprised you’re still around

  • T.E.Lawrence

    3rd Party to What ? Never Ever Land ?

  • jimbob622

    So in conclusion ‘all’ borders are not created through desire for political independence. The desire for political independence was there in those North African countries certainly, but the borders were created prior to that. Northern Ireland is a terrible example of a border created to achieve political independence. Was the border created to achieve political independence for people in NI? If so, how did the Brexit vote work out for how the majority in NI voted? No point saying that it was a UK wide vote because the border in Ireland was not created to ensure the political independence of people in Britain.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It was a UK wide vote. Sorry to sound like a broken record.
    I already anticipated your other points in my earlier posts on this.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    an executive is needed so that Northern Ireland can have a strong democratic voice in the Brexit process

  • jimbob622

    It certainly was a UK wide vote, one which showed that NI has no political independence and therefore an example of a border being created that does not grant political independence. There is no point in saying it was a UK wide vote (sorry to sound like a broken record).

  • MainlandUlsterman

    NI isn’t an independent state – of course it doesn’t have political independence. Did anyone think it did?

  • mickfealty

    As I recall (but perhaps I’m misremembering) she asked if that’s what all it was. Doesn’t she have a point?

    Her job is to ask tough searching questions not to play straight woman to a bunch of party pro talking points.

  • jimbob622

    I don’t know, did they? In case you have forgetten, you were arguing for the contention that all borders are created as a result of the desire for political independence. Was it not unionists who desired the border in Ireland? And as you just stated N Ireland does not have political independence. Therefore NI is an example to the contrary of what you contended was ‘entirely obvious ‘.

  • Skibo

    That 45% comes from a number of sources. Ardent Unionist voters who think that Britain is still the head of an Empire and do not need Europe to survive, from unionists who see immigrants as a threat to their position in society and from ardent Republicans who want a free and independent Ireland and view the EU as a replacement for the UK.
    By the way it was 44%!

  • Skibo

    Georgie, the majority of pollution does not come from farmers but from badly designed and managed sewage treatment works and from Industry but sure it is easier to blame the farmers.
    See Government bodies that handle sewage treatment are immune to prosecution.

  • Skibo

    It is not just the EU regulations but how they are applied by the Government. To think that the UK government will act in the interest of the farmers or the environment is false.

  • Skibo

    William as a farmer one of the issues I had with changing regulations was the spreading of farmyard manure. It now is limited like slurry, yet the best time to spread is during the winter and allow the freeze thaw process to break it down.

  • Skibo

    An incinerator was planned for the North but our planning procedures prevented it being developed, not a lack of investment. I believe it was planned for around Crumlin.

  • William Kinmont

    Do you think it needs to be even more local?

  • Damien Mullan

    “one line trade deal”

    Any of them we can sight.

    The EU ‘deals’ with them within the parameters of WTO rules. The UK must do likewise. WTO exists to facilitate trade, the EU is a single customs area, it conducts its affairs differently within and without that customs unions. WTO facilitates this, it recognizes the profound difference that nations within a single customs union operate with one another and those external countries that that customs union deals with on MFN basis.

  • Damien Mullan

    The UK does not have a sea around it, GB has a sea around it, the UK has a 310 mile land border with another sovereign state.

    “Makes no material cost difference to Japan”

    Not all Japanese motor companies are based solely in Japan, they often meet European demand from their plants in Europe, whose European plants exist across the EU with very complex supply chains.

  • Damien Mullan

    No more partisan than UK governments. Though I think there are a greater number of retired Irish soldiers who sleep soundly at night than those who served in British uniforms.

  • Skibo

    I think you cannot farm by the calendar so regulations should not be constrained by the calendar but by the environment itself.
    I would not expect professional politicians too take this on board.

  • Damien Mullan

    I’d take a maple-leaf socked Taoiseach over Theresa C-3PO May any day.

  • Ryan A

    Where’s the PUP polling at these days? Will do well to keep their council seats on recent numbers. Which isn’t good for Unionism when the next RHI rocks up.

  • William Kinmont

    I think that regulation gets to a point where it is so detailed it ties itself in knots. Much of this stuff should be tested in law or at least testable in law. The regulators rely on it costing too much for individuals to achieve this.Even when they do DAERA has ignored the judgements rather than have the consequences.” Active Farmer” may have been a principle that many wanted but as no effort was made to legally define what it meant we have had several years now of expense and argument and still it’s an ongoing issue taking up much time when we should be dealing with brexit issues.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Agree Ryan I can see the end of the PUP after the next council elections with both shades of loyalism left with no other alternative but throw its hat in with the DUP

  • Ryan A

    Perhaps – I’d like to see Julie Ann given a chance at leading but probably best to wait until (if) Stormont returns. No chance of anyone cutting through the noise while it’s down.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I think Julie Ann is in trouble in the Oldpark Ward at the next council elections. Her 774 fpv will not cut it this time round as the DUP will balance its 1900 fpv between its 2 candidates better this time out ?

  • Cagey Feck

    The Burntollet attackers were tricked by PD into doing it… can you read this back to yourself without shame?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes, are you disagreeing with it? It’s really not a controversial view. You forgot to mention that I also put the blame on the attackers and defended the primacy of the right to march / publicy protest. But even Hume said some of the march leaders were hoping for just such a response. They laid a trap and the Loyalist thugs fell for it hook, line and sinker.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    is quietism the answer though?

  • Ryan A

    I’m surprised they didn’t balance better the first time. Being on the ballot in March will have helped and it at least sounds like she’s been doing the work on the ground. Key will be ensuring she gets any UUP transfers first. If they even run there this time; which I’m inclined to think they won’t. Losing 2 MP’s and 6 MLA’s can’t be good for cashflow.

  • mickfealty

    In the precise context I’m sharing, ie SF did not actually have a campaign, and it shows in the figures, particularly if you look at West Belfast.

  • Skibo

    William how is an agreement on SFP a number of years ago having any effect on Brexit?
    The Tories have insinuated that they will continue with payments to farmers after Brexit but when questioned in detail, it turns out nothing is confirmed.
    I wonder if there is to be a transitional period for the UK and the EU, should it include payments to farmers?

  • Damien Mullan

    Morality more like it. The Brits have a moral deficit around these parts.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    that is sectarian, Damien

  • Damien Mullan

    Learned at the feet of the Brits, what was partition if not the most egregious act of sectarianism.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    democratically better than any of the alternatives

  • Damien Mullan

    Splitting Demos apart in order to save Demos is quite a trick.